Delicious, Allergen-Free Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving, we gather and we eat for upwards of four hours, all the way from pre-dinner snacks to post-dessert dessert. But a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is literally one of the most allergen-laden meals possible. Whether this is your first allergen-free Thanksgiving or your twentieth, the following tips will help make it festive, mouthwateringly delicious, and safe.

Talking Turkey:


Did you know that many fresh and frozen turkeys contain hidden allergens? Most conventional, "self-basted" turkeys have been injected with butter, water and salt, and may also contain gluten. If you're going to go the conventional turkey route, always verify ingredients with the manufacturer before purchasing.

A safer option is a "Natural" turkey, which hasn't been treated with any artificial colors or flavor enhancing ingredients. Look for "Organic" natural turkeys at websites like Local Harvest, or stores like Whole Foods.

Another good option: natural "Kosher" turkey. Guaranteed to have no dairy injected, the benefit of a Kosher turkey is that it has already been salted, and thus doesn't need brining. I recommend Empire, the taste test winner selected by Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Empire turkeys are also gluten-free.

If you're a diehard foodie, take the adventurous (albeit, most expensive) route and look for a "Heritage" turkey, which is one of the pre-World War II breeds of turkey, like Narragansett and Bourbon Red. Slow Food has a great listing of independent farmers raising Heritage turkeys, state by state.

Looking for something similar to what our forefathers might have eaten? Save yourself the hunt, check out D'Artagnan, to purchase a wild bird.

Last, to keep your turkey allergen-free, baste with olive oil. There is no need for butter, and in fact I prefer turkey with olive oil.

Savory Side Dishes:

Make baked sweet potato and potato dishes using canola oil instead of butter, and orange juice or rice milk instead of milk or cream. I prefer yams/sweet potatoes without marshmallows but if you must have marshmallows, look for vegan brands like VeganSweets, made without eggs or gelatin, but be forewarned that they contain the allergen SOY.

Instead of plain rice, mix and match with old world gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, and buckwheat. All of these combine well with legumes like lentils or chickpeas, and are wonderful when enhanced with fresh herbs like thyme and sage.

Dip into the plentiful array of winter squash available this time of year--not just butternut and acorn, but delicata, red kuri, and sweet dumplings.

Gravy can be made with olive oil instead of butter, and alternate flours, such as brown rice flour for thickening, instead of traditional wheat flour.

Try making roast brussel sprouts this year instead of drenching them in butter or hollandaise sauce. To roast, cook at 450 degrees on a baking tray, tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and pepper, for 25 minutes, shaking once or twice until a crispy golden brown on the outside, and tender on the inside.

For cranberry sauce, omit walnuts (tree nuts), and use thinly sliced tangerines or mandarin oranges, keeping the rind on, to add texture and color.


Remember: if you're only doing a few allergen-free dishes rather than a whole hypoallergenic meal, be aware of cross contamination while cooking and serving. Consider labeling dishes with ingredient cards. If the meal is going to be served buffet-style, serve the food allergic person first to avoid cross contamination. 

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